Sharp rise in prosecutions for assaults on NHS staff

The number of successful prosecutions against people who assaulted NHS staff rose sharply in the past year, according to new figures.

Statistics from the Department of Health show that in 2004-5 there were 759 successful prosecutions, compared to 51 the year before.

Health secretary Patricia Hewitt,said that, although she was pleased with the increase in prosecutions, the figures illustrated the extent of the problem.

“The huge increase in prosecutions demonstrates that we will take tough action against anyone who attacks [NHS staff],” she told the Times.

Despite claims of a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to violence against staff, the most recent figures from 2002-3 found  that 116,000 incidents of verbal and physical abuse had been reported by NHS staff.

A recent survey showed a small reduction in stress levels among NHS employees last year. The survey, carried out by the Healthcare Commission, found that 36% of staff had suffered from work-related stress in 2004, compared with 39% in 2003.

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